09/23/2019

Shasta water release plan has no cutbacks to farmers – for now

After weeks of uncertainty and pressure from members of Congress, federal officials on Wednesday announced a plan for managing water releases from California’s largest reservoir this summer in a manner that will not involve cutbacks in farm water deliveries – at least if all goes as hoped.

For more than a month, federal agencies have battled behind the scenes over how to balance the needs of California farms and two endangered fish species whose populations have been decimated by years of drought and environmental decline.

Federal fisheries officials – who hold considerable sway over how the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operates Shasta Dam and other federal reservoirs – had been weighing whether to hold back substantial volumes of water at Shasta Lake into the summer to protect juvenile winter-run Chinook salmon. A companion proposal called for letting more water flow to the Pacific Ocean through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta during summer, in hopes of bolstering survival rates for another species teetering on the brink of extinction, the Delta smelt.

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